Think dif­fer­ent(ly)!

Our colum­nist re­mem­bers a highly re­mark­able — and re­mark­ably un­gram­mat­i­cal — ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign.

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At some point in the late 1990s, I was walk­ing down a street in New York City, when I saw an ad­ver­tise­ment that re­ally im­pressed me. Printed on a gi­gan­tic poster dis­played on the side of a build­ing was the im­age of John Lennon and Yoko Ono along with two words: “Think Dif­fer­ent.”

This poster was part of an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign for Ap­ple com­put­ers. The ads in this cam­paign would show a pic­ture of a highly in­flu­en­tial per­son, like Ma­hatma Gandhi, Pablo Pi­casso or Muham­mad Ali, and printed next to that per­son would be the words: “Think Dif­fer­ent.” The mes­sage was a strong one: a per­son who pur­chases an Ap­ple prod­uct thinks out­side the box and dares to dream.

The cam­paign, which ran from 1997 to 2002, was hugely pop­u­lar and won many awards. Its only draw­back, though, is that the slo­gan “Think Dif­fer­ent” is, strictly speak­ing, gram­mat­i­cally in­cor­rect.

In English, as in Ger­man, cer­tain parts of speech are called ad­verbs. Ad­verbs “mod­ify” — which is just an­other word for “de­scribe” — verbs, ad­jec­tives or other ad­verbs. In Ger­man, ad­verbs and ad­jec­tives look the same, but in English, ad­jec­tives and ad­verbs are usu­ally dif­fer­ent. For ex­am­ple, in the sen­tence, “He is al­ways very care­ful,” “care­ful” is the ad­jec­tive. In “He al­ways walks care­fully,” “care­fully” — with “-ly at the end” — is the ad­verb.

Be­cause the word “think” in “Think Dif­fer­ent” is a verb, you need an ad­verb to mod­ify it. In other words, to be gram­mat­i­cal, the Ap­ple ad should have read: “Think Dif­fer­ently.”

Why, then, did Ap­ple spend huge sums of money on an ad cam­paign, the slo­gan of which was not gram­mat­i­cally cor­rect?

My the­ory is that drop­ping the “-ly” plays into the whole idea of think­ing dif­fer­ently, as the very slo­gan it­self is writ­ten in a mav­er­ick-like way. By ask­ing peo­ple to “Think Dif­fer­ent,” Ap­ple was ef­fec­tively say­ing, “We know that it should be ‘Think Dif­fer­ently,’ but we’re go­ing to drop the ‘-ly’ be­cause we take risks and are dif­fer­ent.”

More im­por­tantly, ac­cord­ing to his bi­og­ra­phy, Steve Jobs in­sisted on us­ing the word “dif­fer­ent” be­cause “think dif­fer­ently” sim­ply would not have had the same mean­ing to him. He said he wanted peo­ple to imag­ine that the word “dif­fer­ent” in “Think Dif­fer­ent” was be­ing used more like a noun, as in “Think Progress,” “Think In­no­va­tion,” “Think Cre­ativ­ity.” What­ever the case, the idea worked.

Nowa­days, Ap­ple may sell its prod­ucts with ads that show us the sleek­ness of its phones or the nifti­ness of its watches, but I’ll never for­get the days when the com­pany pre­sented us with some truly re­mark­able peo­ple and asked us to think dif­fer­ent.

dare [de&r] sich trauen draw­back [(dro:bäk] Nachteil mav­er­ick [(mäverik] un­kon­ven­tionell nifti­ness [(niftines] ifml. Ele­ganz, Raffi­nesse pur­chase [(p§:tses] er­wer­ben, kaufen sleek­ness [(sli:knes] Sch­nit­tigkeit

CHAD SMITH Orig­i­nally from New York City, Chad Smith is a free­lance jour­nal­ist and English teacher who now lives in Ham­burg.

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